Asking someone to define mindfulness is kind of like asking, “What does chocolate taste like?” Or “What does your favourite song sound like?” Definitions can only give you a small idea of what the real experience is like. Just reading about mindfulness without experiencing it yourself is like going to a restaurant to read the menu, without tasting any of the food. Just as the point of going to a restaurant is to taste the food, the point of mindfulness is to experience it for yourself.
Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is about shifting out of autopilot and awakening to the here and now. Mindfulness is about freeing yourself from regrets about the past and worries about the future.
Everyone can be mindful. You have probably already experienced moments of natural mindfulness. Perhaps you’ve had times, without even trying to, when you were deeply aware of what you were doing; the only thing that mattered was the present moment—the past and the future seemed to disappear—and you were filled with thanks for being alive. Maybe this happens for you when you play sports. Or maybe you experience this kind of awareness when you play a musical instrument, when you pet your dog or cat gently, or when you listen to your favourite song. Whether you realised it or not in those moments, you already know how to be mindful!
Very often, simply breathing deeply doesn’t offer enough of a calming effect, especially in stressful situation, and can actually lead to hyperventilation which is the last thing you want when in a stressful situation.
Instead, try extending your breath. To do this, you must:
- Breathe in for 6 seconds, hold your breath for a second or two, and exhale for 8.
- This makes it so that your exhale is significantly longer than your inhale.
- Try doing this for 2 to 5 minutes to really allow it to work it’s magic.
Breathe with your diaphragm:
- To do this, lay down in a comfortable position, as flat as possible.
- Place one hand on your chest and one just where your ribs end.
- Try to inhale in a way that only your chest moves.
- Repeat this in a way that only your diaphragm/stomach moves.
- Attempt to isolate both of those repeatedly, and see how deeply you can breathe into your lungs.
- Extending the depth of your inhale can help you control whatever anxiety you may be dealing with.
Lion’s breath involves exhaling forcefully. To try lion’s breath:
- Get into a kneeling position, crossing your ankles and resting your bottom on your feet. If this position isn’t comfortable, sit cross-legged.
- Bring your hands to your knees, stretching out your arms and your fingers.
- Take a breath in through your nose.
- Breathe out through your mouth, allowing yourself to vocalize “ha.”
- During exhale, open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue out, stretching it down toward your chin as far as it will go.
- Focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) or the end of your nose while exhaling.
- Relax your face as you inhale again.
- Repeat the practice up to six times, changing the cross of your ankles when you reach the halfway point.
Reading for Self-Improvement:
- How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie:
Carnegie has put together a wonderful guide for those of us who are less socially aware on how to make ourselves be better listeners, better friends, and improve our existing relationships, as well as create new meaningful ones. Don’t be swayed by the slightly manipulative title, the book heavily focuses on getting out of a mental rut and improving your self-esteem in order to be able to have the psychological strength to develop more of an attentive and positive outlook on life.
- Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss.
A former FBI negotiator for major kidnappings shares the tips and tricks of the industry, which are applicable to every day life, especially in business, relationships et al. Whilst it sounds intimidating, the book isn’t actually full of heavy academic material, and more so focused on real, anecdotal situations, therefore making it more relatable and applicable to every day life.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The Bible of Productivity! Covey outlines the 7 most important principles to leading a productive life in work, business, and day-to-day life, with crucial life lessons and planning techniques thrown in for good measure. Some of the habits mentioned in the title include keeping the end goal in mind, and how not to get thrown off by tiny inconveniences we often encounter and how not to allow them to throw us off our game.
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
A fantastic and comprehensive guide to navigating through the stresses of daily life without letting them get to you, Tolle presents a set of ideologies rooted solely in spirituality and the expansion of horizons for the number 1 (that’s you.)
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to chaos by Jordan Peterson
Peterson is truly a magician with words, in a book so engaging and filled with so many life lessons and amusing anecdotes, it is truly the embodiment of a cover-to-cover-in-an-afternoon kind of a read. With broad links to faiths of all creeds, as well as philosophical and psychological links, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone within the 300-odd pages.
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements actually teach a lot of assertiveness when dealing with others and coercion into situations or agreements that you may not be fully there for. With lessons of impeccability with your word and not taking things to heart, this short-yet-sweet book is full to the brim with instructions on how to assert yourself in your personal autonomy.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
A novel chronicling the experiences of a prisoner within a concentration camp, describing psychotherapeutic methods of envisioning a future in a more positive light, and the outcome which allow you to focus on the end goal instead of the current struggles you might be dealing with. Inspiring, invigorating and truly motivational.
- The one thing by Gary Keller
The ONE thing outlines the one thing that you can do today that will make your tomorrow easier. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if the moment is a stressful one, therefore living for tomorrow is significantly more valuable, as outlined by Keller.
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
A non-fiction (running theme here) novel recounting the struggles faced by artists, entrepreneurs, athletes and all of the creatives alike, in trying to break into new, non-conventional spaces. It offers an outlook on those struggles and how to overcome them from an objective perspective.
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
A very popular approach from psychology and behavioural economics, presented in a manageable and enjoyable manner, describing the infinite power of the subconscious and how to gear your brain in it’s inactivity to produce the results you want in life.
Positive affirmations, or the power of positive thinking, has been proven to change your mindset completely if given enough time to work its magic. It’s virtually the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” approach to developing a strong sense of self-esteem.
Whilst it may sound silly, but the theory that the repetition of positive statements actually improves emotional well-being has been scientifically proven. Here are some positive affirmations/mantras you can say to yourself in the mirror in the morning, even if it feels a little silly.
Positive Affirmations actually follow the Law of Attraction, which suggests that when you put out a little light into the world, that same positivity returns to you tenfold. This also applies to negativity- when you’re in a bad mood, you react to seemingly insignificant things in a frustrated manner, this makes the people around you frustrated and resentful, therefore increasing the amount of negative emotions in general. When you replace that with positivity, suddenly, you’re surrounded by light.
I AM ENOUGH.
I can, so I will.
I will not compare myself to others.
I am in charge of my feelings, and I am choosing to feel good.
I am full of love.
I have a purpose.
I will not sweat the small stuff. I will not let 5 minutes affect my 24 hours.
I have the power to change.
Not everyone will see your magic. That’s okay.
I am my own happiness.
I am smart, I am kind, I am brave, I am beautiful inside and out.
I am deserving of happiness.